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Close encounter with Mexican cats

Posted by gcertain Michoacan, Mexico (My Page) on
Sun, Sep 7, 08 at 9:23

Until yesterday it was mere curiosity, but then I got a little too close to some particularly savage looking caterpillars I'd seen on a peach tree. I was weeding around the tree, being careful not to disturb the cats, when I felt a tingle on the back of my upper arm. I had brushed against a rose bush and thought at first the thorns had pricked me. But on closer inspection, I saw that some of the cats had migrated to the rose bush.

"Owwwww," I whined, and headed for the house, the weeding abandoned for the day. My arm was starting to throb. I planned to take Benedryl and go to bed, but I decided to see how bad it would get, so I just washed the area with soap and cold water and scrubbed it with a nail brush (that felt good).

After the cold scrubbing-induced numbness wore off, it didn't hurt anymore. I could detect several mosquito-bite-size bumps under the skin and a slight tenderness, but I had no more pain or itching. Overall, it was not nearly as bad as, say, a jellyfish sting.

I've been finding a lot of different cats, only a couple of which I have recognized. Maybe some of you can help identify them. When I return to Mexico in January, I'll bring the appropriate gear to rear some of them to adulthood.

From Butterflies and Moths of Michoacán

These eggs are on a black cherry leaf. I think they are probably the same species as the stinging cats on the peach and rose.

From Butterflies and Moths of Michoacán

I find these on thorn bushes.

From Butterflies and Moths of Michoacán

I find these on romero milkweed (A. linaria) summer and winter.

From Butterflies and Moths of Michoacán

I think this is a Queen. It is on romero milkweed.

From Butterflies and Moths of Michoacán

I was ecstatic to find this tiny Eastern Black Swallowtail when I stopped to photograph the flower on my dill. I brought him inside and offered him dill, fennel and parsley to see which he preferred. So far, he's remained on his original dill florette. The next day, I found his older brother on the the fennel plant, so I brought him in too. They are in separate containers for now, at least until the little guy grows enough to hold his own.

From Butterflies and Moths of Michoacán

I shot this from across the fence. I think the vine may be milkweed, but I won't be sure until I get a closer look.

geni


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Close encounter with Mexican cats

Geni, the caterpillar is a luna moth cat.
I can't help you with IDing your cats, but the ones on asclepias linaria look a lot like scarlet-bodied wasp moths and polka dot wasp moths, which use host plants similar to milkweed, so I imagine they're one of the brightly colored, day flying wasp moths.
The last one looks like a salt marsh moth cat, so, if that's not what is is, it's probably something close, like a woolly bear.
Beautiful pictures!
Sherry


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RE: Close encounter with Mexican cats

Geni,

I love the Polka Dot cats. They remind me of this little BF I saw in Laos. I was never able to find an ID for it.

Lao BF

Keep posting your finds!

Sandy


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RE: Close encounter with Mexican cats

Sherry, thanks for the suggestions. I tried rearing some of the yellow milkweed cats this year, but I gave up when they wouldn't eat. I didn't have a good habitat for them, but next trip I'll bring an enclosure.

Experience has told me that BST cats are like Lay's potato chips -- never just one. I'm up to five now, and they are happily eating dill and fennel. The four little ones are in a plastic box that alfafa sprouts came in, and the big one is in a makeshift enclosure, the top of a five-liter water bottle over a plastic container of water with fennel stuck through a hole in the lid, all sitting on a paper plate.

I continue to find the spiny ones on rose leaves, and I've found two so far on the doormat. They're coming after me where I live. Fortunately, I've had no lingering effects from the stings.

Sandy, what a beautiful little butterfly. I hope you'll post more of your Laos photos -- or have I overlooked them?

Here's a pic of the BST habitat.

From Butterflies and Moths of Michoacán

And here's another unusual cat I saw on a walk recently.

From Butterflies and Moths of Michoacán

geni


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RE: Close encounter with Mexican cats

No, Genie, you haven't overlooked them. I need to get a blog set up as I have so many photos. I'll try to post a few of my favs. I have sure enjoyed your photos. I think a trip to Mexico is in my future!

Sandy


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RE: Close encounter with Mexican cats

I am incorrigible. With two days left here before I return to Alabama, I discovered two more little BST cats on the fennel. What did I do -- brought them inside, of course. And today I found another one on parsley. I brought it in, too. I now have seven little ones happily eating fennel, dill and parsley. The largest one pupated a couple of days ago. I know I'll have to put them back outside tomorrow, but it's been fun having them inside for a few days.

From Butterflies and Moths of Michoacán
This is the first one I found and it is now the biggest of the remaining cats.

From Butterflies and Moths of Michoacán
These are the first four little cats, before I added three more to the enclosure. The chrysalis is on the side of the water container.


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RE: Close encounter with Mexican cats

My last official act of 2008 in my Mexican butterfly garden was to return my BST cats to the wild. I moved the water container to the herb garden and let some of the cats migrate to the fennel. Then I moved the container next to the dill and let the rest of the cats go to their preferred host. Finally, when all the cats had made the transfer, I dumped out the water and put the container on top of the upturned birdbath next to a tall cosmos stalk so that when the butterfly ecloses it can climb the cosmos to dry its wings. I put a rock inside the plastic cup so the wind won't blow it off, and I just crossed my fingers and hoped that the cosmos leaves would provide cover from curious birds. That's all I could think to do for them; now it's up to nature to decide whether they make it.

So, when I got back to Alabama, what did I find on my parsley? Two gigantic BST cats, which are now happily munching away on parsley inside a mesh container next to my computer.
geni


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